This is the 10th and final
in a series of Saturday stories profiling the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2012.
News Sports Reporter
Nan Harvey’s life revolved around the University at Buffalo. Beginning as a two-sport athlete in the 1970s to her role in coaching and finally as an athletic administrator, Harvey contributed greatly to the success of UB.
Even after she was diagnosed with cancer, the disease that eventually took her life, Harvey not only made an impact until the end, she left an inspiring legacy at the school she loved.
“It was hard to keep Nan down,’’ said Bob Arkeilpane, the former UB athletics director. “If there were meetings or things she was supposed to be at, no matter how she felt, she would just keep on forging ahead. She never quit, she never gave up.”
Harvey, who died in 2003, is one of four contributors honored posthumously as “Pride” selections. The others are baseball players Wally Schang and Stan Rojek and boxer Lou Scozza.
Schang, a native of South Wales, began his 19-year major league career in 1913 as a catcher with the Philadelphia Athletics. The switch-hitting Schang hit better than .300 six times, and played for three different World Series champions: the 1913 Philadelphia Athletics, the 1918 Boston Red Sox, and the 1923 New York Yankees. He finished his career with a .284 average, 59 home runs and 710 RBIs in 1,842 games.
Born in North Tonawanda, Rojek was a shortstop for the Brooklyn Dodgers (1942 and 1946-47), Pittsburgh Pirates (1948-51), St. Louis Cardinals (1951) and St. Louis Browns (1952). He helped the Dodgers win the 1947 National League pennant and finished 10th in voting for the 1948 NL MVP after leading the league in games (156), at-bats (641) and singles (150). When Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947, he took a locker next to Rojek.
Scozza fought as a middleweight and a light heavyweight in a career that spanned 1925-34 and included more than 100 bouts with 79 victories. Scozza fought light heavyweight champion Maxie Rosenbloom seven times, winning three times, and took fellow Buffalo native Jimmy Slattery the distance in a title fight in 1930. One of only two men in the world to ever knock out James J. “The Cinderella Man” Braddock, Scozza did it in six rounds in San Francisco in 1932. Joe Louis did it in eight rounds in 1937.
Harvey, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2000, lost her battle with the disease on Sept. 2, 2003, one week before her 47th birthday. Harvey was UB’s senior woman administrator, a title she accepted in 1996. In that position, Harvey supervised 15 of the athletic program’s sports while working closely on all issues regarding gender equity and Title IX.
It was one of many roles Harvey held at UB, dating back to her undergraduate days in the late 1970s.
“Nan was a student-athlete at Buffalo, she was a coach at Buffalo and she paved the way as the Senior Women’s Administrator and was a role model and a mentor for other women who were on the staff,’’ said Arkeilpane, now the deputy director of athletics at Cincinnati. “They eventually worked their way into more significant roles and Nan was a pioneer in that way. She left her mark in all three capacities.’’
The Cheektowaga native and Cleveland Hill High School graduate received her physical education degree from Buffalo in 1978, after starring in volleyball and basketball. A year later UB finally offered her first love as a varsity sport: softball. In 1983, Harvey took over the program.
She recorded 38 victories over the next three years, earning SUNYAC Coach of the Year honors in 1985 after guiding the Bulls to a 19-9 record, a national ranking and an appearance in the NCAA Division III Regional Tournament. Harvey also enjoyed an outstanding softball playing career, which earned her an induction to the Western New York Softball Hall of Fame in 1991.
“I’m very proud of the fact that I played major fast-pitch softball in Buffalo at a time when fast-pitch softball was huge,’’ Harvey told The Buffalo News in 2003. “I played for the Buffalo Sunbirds, which were archrivals with the North Tonawanda Shamrocks. It used to be just knockdown, drag-out battles to see who would win the regionals and win the right to go to the nationals. I got to play in the national championships four times. I have a great sense of fulfillment from that.’’
Four months prior to her death, Harvey bequeathed $200,000 to the UB athletic department from her retirement funds and the school renamed its softball facility Nan Harvey Field. After part of four decades dedicated to the school, it was time for UB to give something back to Nan Harvey.
“That was a highlight for me,’’ Arkeilpane said. “She gave back and she left so much to the people that she cared about the most, and that was the student-athletes. So for generations to come, there are student-athletes at Buffalo that are benefiting from the legacy that Nan left.’’
The Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame’s 22nd annual induction dinner will be held Wednesday at the Hyatt Regency Ballroom. Tickets are sold out. To purchase auxiliary seating, call Tina Pastwick at 693-3807.